Try this utility from Paul Rademacher's site, which overlays a scaled representation of the Deepwater Horizon spill onto a Google Earth view of any city you choose. (May require a Google Earth web plug-in, available at the site linked above. I've used that plugin for a long time with no ill effects.) For instance, here is how the spill would look as applied to Washington DC. Click for larger.
And, just quickly a few other cities I'm familiar with. First the SF Bay Area, then Tokyo, then Duluth MN. You can choose any place.
For later discussion: the surprising power that different visual renderings of reality can have, in changing our ability to understand, or at least begin to envision, what is going on around us. (This is not just a brush-off: I actually have a little discourse pending on the topic.) In this case, Rademacher, who works for Google Earth, points out on his site that it is very hard to imagine the scale of things we see in the open ocean. Suddenly it becomes much more comprehensible and dramatic when mapped this way.
The only possible benefit of this catastrophe could be forcing or allowing people to understand differently the scale of environmental damage now being done, and thereby catalyzing some new form of action. Yes, I'm struggling to look for a benefit. For the moment, thanks to Rademacher for this new view of reality, and to his colleague Michael Jones for the lead.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.